US State Dept Presser

State Dept Presser – Oct 2, 2023

13 Min
State Dept Presser – Oct 2, 2023

The US State Department held a presser on Oct 2 with spokesman Matthew Miller holding the forte. The Q-A on India, Pakistan and B’desh is tweaked to come upfront.


QUESTION:   Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News.  Just curious, what will you discuss with the Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar on the issue of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, killed in Canada? 

MR MILLER:  The Secretary actually spoke to this at a press conference on Friday when he was asked about it.  As he made clear then – I’ll reiterate now – we remain in close coordination with our Canadian colleagues on this question.  We have engaged with the Indian Government on a number of occasions to urge them to cooperate with Canada’s investigation.  And the Secretary had an opportunity to do that in his meeting with the foreign minister on Friday. 

QUESTION:  But is he agreed to cooperate with Canada —

MR MILLER:  I will let the Indian Government speak for themselves and I will speak for the United States Government, and we urge that cooperation.  

QUESTION:  So, my last question:  There was a deadly bomb blast in Pakistan, another suicide attack – more than 50 people killed, most of them were children.  And those that claim – TTP and ISS always claiming these attacks.  So, we have heard a number of statements from Biden administration officials that the U.S. will keep its capability to target terrorists in Afghanistan.  So, what stops the U.S. from targeting TTP and ISS hideouts in Afghanistan? 

MR MILLER:  So, first of all, let me say I did put a statement out on this Friday, but I do want to reiterate our deepest sympathies for those killed and injured in those attacks.  The Pakistanis have suffered tremendously from terrorist attacks.  They deserve to practice their faith without fear.  We of course offer condolences to families who lost loved ones and a speedy recovery to those who are injured.  And I will say with respect to counterterrorism cooperation, we cooperate with Pakistan in a range of multilateral fora on issues including terrorist designations and global strategies to defeat terrorist groups.  Earlier this year we held a high-level counterterrorism dialogue to discuss the shared terrorist threats facing our two countries and to work on strategies to cooperate in areas such as border security, terrorist financing – and we will continue to work with Pakistan to ensure that we can better assist Pakistan’s effort to counter all forms of violent extremism. 

QUESTION:  About a statement by Ambassador Peter Haas in Bangladesh on possible visa curb on media.  So radical groups that advocate Taliban-style role in Bangladesh with opposition leaders, hailing the move by the ambassador, are already threatening media persons, even circulating list of journalists critical to radical views.  Other side, civil and human rights activist, anti-war crimes campaigners, editors, journalists, writers, minority leaders found the statement by the ambassador on possible visa curb on media as an affront to freedom of press that has been a pivot to the fight against terror.  Do you support the statement by the ambassador and deny outright the concern raised by such a large liberal group who vouch for secular nation?

MR MILLER:  So, let me restate or state in slightly different language what I said last week, which is the United States wants what the Bangladeshis themselves want: free and fair elections that are conducted in a peaceful manner.  The government, political parties, civil society, and the media in Bangladesh have all expressed their desire that the upcoming national elections are free and fair and conducted in a peaceful manner – as we want.  The visa restriction policy that we’ve announced supports this objective and the desire of the people of Bangladesh to freely choose their leaders.  And for the – I don’t know – well, I’ll just say the United States does not support any particular party and does not want to influence the outcome of the election, only to ensure that the people of Bangladesh may freely choose their leaders.  

QUESTION:  On Russia and China and North Korea, the foreign ministers of North Korea and the Russians will meet in Pyongyang this month, and there is a summit meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Russian President Putin in Beijing this month.  What impact do you think the solidarity between Russia and China and North Korea will have on South Korea, U.S., and Japan? 

MR MILLER:  So, I would say that – there’s kind of a lot to unpack in that question.  But as it pertains to China, one of the things that we have urged in our conversations with Chinese officials, something that Secretary Blinken urged and other officials have urged, is that China is uniquely positioned to use its influence with the DPRK to urge the DPRK to take de-escalatory steps, to urge the DPRK to return to diplomacy – all steps we, of course, do not see the DPRK as willing to take.  But we will continue to encourage them to use that influence to the – any degree that is possible and that they are willing to do. 

With respect to Russia, we continue to be concerned about increased ties between Russia and North Korea, especially as it comes to any potential transfer of weapons either from the DPRK to Russia or from Russia to the DPRK. 

QUESTION:  Kim Jong-un declared that it would strengthen anti-United States solidarity.  China will also participate on this.  How can you comment on this, because Chinese is also supporting what Kim Jong-un said?  

MR MILLER:  I don’t have any further comment than what I just said. 

Go ahead. 

QUESTION:  I’d like to ask you a question on Karabakh.  AFP had a team that was able to go into the capital of Karabakh, Stepanakert, and they describe an absolute ghost town.  Obviously, we know tens of thousands of Armenians fled Karabakh.  The Armenians call it ethnic cleansing.  Does the United States abide by that qualification?  Do you think there was ethnic cleansing here in Karabakh? 

MR MILLER:  So we take allegations of ethnic cleansing, genocide, or other atrocities seriously.  We are in touch with contacts on the ground about the situation.  We won’t shy from taking appropriate actions to respond to allegations of atrocities and promote accountability for those responsible for atrocities when we see evidence that they’ve taken place.  But as always, a determination regarding genocide or ethnic cleansing is based on a deliberate, evidence-based process.  It’s not something I can speak to with any degree of finality from this podium. 

QUESTION:  But the region has been emptied of its civilian population.  I mean —

MR MILLER:  It is certainly true that a hundred thousand, or I should say around a hundred thousand, ethnic Armenians have departed Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenia.  Now, we don’t know – I don’t think any of us can say whether – what percentage of those plan to remain in Armenia permanently, what percentage of them may want to come back, if the conditions allowed, if they felt sufficient assurances about their treatment if they would return, which is why we are reiterating our call for an independent international monitoring mission that would provide transparency and reassurance to the population of Nagorno-Karabakh that the rights and securities of ethnic Armenians would be protected, particularly for any of those that wish to return.  Azerbaijan has made those assurances.  We think there ought to be an international monitoring mission there to observe and guarantee them.

QUESTION:  Follow-up on that?


QUESTION:  Thanks so much.  The first report of the UN team mission to Karabakh just came out.  When you were talking about international – deploying international monitors, is that a mission you had in mind?  And if so, is it long term, short term?  And does it bounce back to the initial question that my colleague asked:  What is your definition or sense of what’s going on right now?

MR MILLER:  So the – first of all, we welcome that mission.  We continue to work with our allies and partners about what a more long-term mission ought to look like.  I don’t have any update on that today.  And in – with respect to – what was the second question?  What the situation was on the ground?

QUESTION:  Right.  The situation —

MR MILLER:  The situation on the ground is exactly as I just described it, where around 100,000 ethnic Armenians have left Nagorno-Karabakh, and relocated to Armenia.  We believe that they ought – if they wish to return, they ought to have their rights respected, and that there ought to be an international monitoring mission in place to secure that.

QUESTION:  Is there any room left for peace agreement?

MR MILLER:  We think certainly there ought to be.  There are other issues beyond the status of Nagorno-Karabakh that are at dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and we would encourage them to return to peace talks to discuss and ultimately come to resolution on those issues.

QUESTION:  Can I have one on Georgia, please?  I have a last one very quick.  There are allegations coming out of Georgia, as was emphasized by the prime minister as well today, accusing the U.S. funding efforts in Georgia, USAID particularly, claiming that they are trying to overthrow Georgian Government.  There have been a litany of accusations against civil society members.  (Inaudible) last question about Georgia.  But now this.  Where this is coming from, and what is your response?

MR MILLER:  I haven’t seen those specific comments, but of course the only involvement that we have in Georgia is for humanitarian and pro-democracy purposes.  We take no position on the leadership of Georgia.  We take no position on elections in Georgia, other than that they ought to be free and fair.

QUESTION:  May I move on to Kosovo —  


QUESTION:  — and Serbia?  You heard the White House on Friday – raised this concern about the troop buildup.  It seems at least the Serbian Government saying today that they’ve reduced the number of troops.  Have you been able to verify that?  Are you sort of – are you satisfied that that has been addressed?  And what level of concern remains?

MR MILLER:  So we have seen the reports that Serbia has withdrawn military personnel and equipment away from the border.  We have not yet verified those independently, and we will be looking for further confirmation.  But if true, that would be a welcome step, something that we called for to happen last week, and we would welcome them having taken that step.

We continue to be concerned about the cycle of rising tensions and sporadic violence in northern Kosovo, and encourage both parties to return to the EU-facilitated dialogue.

QUESTION:  Have there been any contacts with officials on either side since this Friday?

MR MILLER:  So there have been.  The Secretary, of course, talked with President Vucic on Friday, and we’ve had other conversations over the weekend – not at the Secretary level, but at other levels inside the State Department.

QUESTION:   Serbs said that they told the White House on Friday that the troops were decreasing, and then you have even Serbian president getting on the record, saying that last year they had 14,000 troops, that right now the number was 7,500.  And now it’s reducing to 4,000.  So my question:  Why did you then issue a statement saying troops were increasing, when he told you that they were decreasing?

MR MILLER:  Because we did see an increase of Serbian forces at the border.  Now, with respect to whether they are decreasing since Friday, we’ve seen reports, but as I said, we have not yet verified those.

Said, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Matt.  You began by noting how Ukraine has inspired the world in fighting against an illegal military occupation.  And I wonder if you think that the Palestinians ought to be so inspired as to fight an illegal occupation with the same kind of intensity and the same commitment, and, also, count on a limitless commitment of support by the United States and the rest of the world, as you stated.

MR MILLER:  We are firmly committed to a two-state solution, as we have spoken to a number of times, Said.

QUESTION:  Right.  But you said that Ukraine is inspiring the world, and the Palestinians have a right to be, as members of this world community, to be so inspired and fight occupation, correct?

MR MILLER:  We certainly take steps that would improve the dignity, the economic situation of the Palestinian people, as well as an ultimate two-state solution.

QUESTION:  Okay.  And one other question.  Today – yesterday, the Israeli occupation forces forced a Palestinian family to destroy her own home in East Jerusalem, with her children, and move out.  Do you have any comment on that?

MR MILLER:  It is critical, as we’ve said on a number of occasions, for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions, and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution.  And that certainly includes the practices of forced demolitions and evictions of families from homes in which they have lived for generations.

Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Just on the situation in Türkiye and northern Iraq.  Do you have any reaction to what happened in Ankara, and then the subsequent strikes? 

MR MILLER:  The United States strongly condemns the October 1st terrorist attack at the Turkish Interior Ministry in Ankara.  You saw the Secretary speak to this yesterday.  We wish those injured a speedy and full recovery, and we stand firmly with our NATO Ally Türkiye and the Turkish people in the fight against the PKK, which has been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States.  We condemn any acts of terrorism against Türkiye and its people.

QUESTION:  A follow-up on this?

MR MILLER:  Yeah. 

QUESTION:  Turkish president, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that:  We are extending our military operations in Syria and also in Iraq.  And this is at a time that the Iraqi Government is rejecting all the violations into their sovereignty.  They said that this is not a sign of a good neighbour.  What’s your position and comment on that? 

MR MILLER:  So we recognize the legitimate security threat the PKK poses to Türkiye and we urge Türkiye to pursue joint counter-terrorism cooperation with Iraq in a way that supports and respects Iraqi sovereignty.  

 Go ahead. 

QUESTION:   Will the U.S. challenge the official Palestinian school curriculum, which rejects the two-state solution by teaching the next generation to reject any recognition of Israel?  

MR MILLER:   I will say that we support the two-state solution.  You’ve seen me asked about that on a number of occasions.  That will continue to be our policy, and that will be our policy as it pertains to anyone on either side of this longstanding conflict who wants to take a different position. 

QUESTION:  What about those well-equipped arsenals and the concerns that Israel has that are happening – that are occurring in the UN agency UNRWA camps? 

MR MILLER:  Again, as I’ve said, we support Israel’s right to secure its nation.

QUESTION:  On Russia?  Thank you.  There are reports that the United States has informed Russia that Washington is not planning to invite Vladimir Putin to the upcoming APEC summit in November.  Can you confirm that?  Are you planning to?

MR MILLER:   I don’t have anything I think I want to say about invitations.  We’ve said we recognize our obligations as the host of APEC, but we are going to honour our sanctions rules and regulations in making invitations.  I’ve been asked about that in the context of other individuals.  I would also say I would be highly surprised if Vladimir Putin, who has been at times reluctant to leave his own borders recently for fear of arrest for the war crimes he’s committed – I’d be highly surprised if he wanted to show up at a meeting in San Francisco.

QUESTION:  Your Iranian counterpart was today asked about the nuclear talks, and he referred to some different initiatives for different parties, but he also referred to the JCPOA as the eventual goal of the talks.  I know you have said, the Secretary have said, that you believe in diplomacy.  But my question is specifically:  Does the Biden administration still believe in the JCPOA?  Would that be the framework of any diplomacy that you do?

MR MILLER:  Let me say that we continue to believe diplomacy is the best option for containing Iran’s nuclear program.  We will continue to urge Iran to take de-escalatory steps.  I think we are a long way off from Iran even considering re-entering the JCPOA, given that they just in the past few weeks refused IAEA inspectors.  So our policy hasn’t really changed.  We’re committed to ensuring that they do not have a nuclear weapon.  We’re committed to diplomacy to constrain Iran’s nuclear program, but we have not yet seen them take the kind of de-escalatory steps that we think are important for them to take.

QUESTION:  Late last week the DOD released the 2023 strategic counterterrorist – Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction report, and it said that Iran has not complied with the Chemical Weapons Convention.  Is the United States aware of any facilities that Iran has not declared?  Because that was part of the report.

MR MILLER:  I think I will let my colleagues at the Pentagon speak to a DOD report.

 QUESTION:  Iran seems to be also eyeing Antarctica.  The commander of the army’s naval force said last week that the – that Antarctica is a good place to control – quote /unquote “control” ballistic missiles, given that the UN sanctions on the missiles will be – will expire pretty soon.  How do you see this comment from them and that they want to do?   

MR MILLER:  I think that feels a little more like biting off more than they can chew.  I would say with respect to Antarctica, Antarctica should remain a sanctuary for peaceful exploration and scientific research.  The United States remains steadfast in its commitment to the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, which expressly prohibits the establishment of military bases in Antarctica.  And although Iran is not a party to the treaty, we unequivocally oppose any efforts to militarize Antarctica.  Military activities should have no place in that unique environment, whether they be by Iran or anyone else.

QUESTION:  One more on Iran, if you don’t mind.  Ukrainian foreign minister today came out with numbers that last month – Happy October, by the way – in September, Russia launched a record number of Shaheds, Shahed drones, on Ukraine, more than 500.  Now, we had the largest number, 413, in May.  What is your sense of why Iran is being involved in its efforts in Ukraine?  And what does it tell you about the – what kind of regime we are dealing with?  

MR MILLER:  Look, I think we’ve seen Iran continue to take steps to support illiberal regimes to, support acts of aggression, both in its backyard and around the world.  This is consistent with its unfortunately very unhelpful activities around the world.  We have taken steps to impose sanctions on those who have provided such weapons to help Russia’s war against Ukraine, and we will continue to do so. 

QUESTION:  On Niger, do you have any comments on the Algerian mediation?  Are you aware of it?  Do you support it?  And do you coordinate with Algeria on it? 

MR MILLER:  We encourage Algeria to continue to work with ECOWAS, which is leading efforts to resolve the political crisis in Niger.  The United States and Algeria partner closely and regularly on bilateral and regional parties, including on – priorities, including on shared efforts to de-escalate conflict and advance regional stability, and that includes in the Sahel.  This was a topic during the Secretary’s meeting with his Algerian counterpart on August 9th and during our meetings at UNGA, the UN General Assembly.  As Algeria takes a seat on the UN Security Council next year, we look forward to continuing to work together on this and other regional and global priorities. 

And with that, we’ll wrap for today.  Thank you. 

(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 p.m.) ###